While munching on Mexican food catered by Rio Grande on Thursday, March 13, I had the pleasure of hearing three remarkable speakers from the Heretics Club talk about influential moments in their lives. The speakers were given little time to prepare as they were informed on short notice that the original speaker would no longer be able to attend.
Rodney Agnant, a member of Konosioni Senior Honor Society, was the first of the three speakers. He reflected on the turbulent relationship he had with his mother as a child. Because he grew up in a bilingual home speaking French and English, Agnant’s mother often used words that he did not understand. Agnant’s awareness of the complexities and uses of language developed after his brother introduced him to the powerful lyrics of the rap artist Mos Def. The rapper also piqued his awareness for the turbulent racial issues he faced while growing up. When Agnant told his brother that he disliked the fact that his mother could not seem to empathize with the racial difficulties he faced in school, his brother told him that it was just part of their mother’s nature. The uniqueness of her cultural background – revealed through her use of language – had caused her to be a certain way, Agnant’s brother explained. He left Agnant with the message to accept his mother and her idiosyncrasies with unconditional love. This lesson is one that Agnant has carried with him at Colgate and into his future.
The second speaker was Konosioni member Elisabeth Muehlemann. She described how time and maturity have transformed her appreciation and admiration of her brother. Muehlemann never got along with her younger sibling until she thought carefully about a few wise words from her mother – namely, that one day older family members would be gone, and Muehlemann would only have her brother. While the speaker admitted that these words seemed a little harsh, they serve as a powerful reminder that our time in this world will run out, and the same applies to those we love. Our siblings will be present throughout our lives, so there is no reason to fight, but every reason to foster a strong relationship that can be a support network in tough times.
The final speaker, senior Dan Matz, spoke about a movie titled “Kill Your Idols.” This film drastically changed the way that he interpreted art in the world. He confidently spoke off the cuff about how art should be an innovative, creative process since it plays such an integral role in signifying cultural importance. The movie taught Matz to critically analyze music and art around him. New music and art forms typically go against mainstream ideals because of their innovations. Matz emphasized the importance of embracing emerging forms of music because it is a mechanism to create a more accepting society that does not fear difference.
Audience member and sophomore Alex Schaff was stunned that these individuals could spread such profound wisdom at their young age. He felt that all of the lunches have presented life-changing ideas, and he especially appreciated Matz’s insight about art.
Agnant explained that the value of the Heretics Lunches lies in the open dialogue and critical thinking that they foster, which teaches people to see past superficial identities. He believes that these conversations get at the heart of issues in a quicker manner than other conventional means. Brown bag lunches offer the Colgate community a delicious meal and have proven to enrich students’ appreciation and understanding of religions, cultures and people like and unlike themselves,” he said.